Hawaii, Oceania & the Far East
This cruise has now set sail.
Join Borealis in Costa Rica for an epic voyage, sailing to Dubai via a string of awe-inspiring destinations in the Americas, Oceania and Asia. Spectacular islands and culture-rich cities will present you with eclectic highlights throughout your journey, from iconic landmarks and cultural delights to spectacular landscapes and breathtaking beaches – the stuff holiday dreams are made of. [ReadMoreMob]
After meeting your ship in Puerto Caldera, there’s a short sail to the Mexican city of Manzanillo, a beach lovers paradise where you’ll have plenty of golden, sun-bathed sand stretches to relax upon, before you experience a once-in-a-lifetime journey to the ‘Land Down Under’, stopping at a string of spectacular Pacific islands en route. Glorious Hawaii beckons, with three islands awaiting discovery. Take in iconic sights such as Oahu’s Diamond Head, Hanauma Bay and the emotive Pearl Harbour Memorial; immersive yourself in the culture and beauty of Maui; and marvel the volcanic gems of Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea. When your ship breaks the waters of the South Pacific, Paradise awaits you at a trio of idyllic destinations; Raiatea, Tahiti and Bora Bora boast spectacular volcanic landscapes and jungle-rich interiors to explore, and the beaches that frame each island are as unspoilt and postcard-perfect as your dreams have made you believe. [ReadMoreDesk]
On the other side of the Pacific, experience both sides of New Zealand, feeling the energy of bustling Auckland and absorbing the tranquillity of picturesque Picton and breathtaking waterways, before it’s on to a memorable few days in Australia. You’ll be afforded time to take in Sydney’s world-famous attractions, including the Opera House, Harbour Bridge and revered Royal Botanic Garden; and visit Cairns, your gateway to the awe-inspiring Great Barrier Reef. Then in Asia, you’re set to be immersed in the fascinating contrasts of the continent. Connect with the tribal cultures of Alotau in Papua New Guinea; delight in the beauty of Bali and Phuket; and seek out the world’s largest lizards at Komodo Island. There’s also an overnight stay in Singapore, a striking modern metropolis of soaring skyscrapers, bright lights, busy commercial districts and striking temples. Finally, you’re in for an incredible Indian exploration. At Kochi, see the famous Chinese cantilever fishing nets and the British Commonwealth’s oldest synagogue, or perhaps opt for an overland tour to the iconic Taj Mahal; and savour Goa, with its charming Latin Quarter and golden beaches. Magnificent Mumbai provides a taste of old and modern India. Take chances visit the UNESCO-listed Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Railway Station, Dhobi Ghat – the world’s largest open-air laundry district – and more. You’re sure to spot busy Dabbawallas delivering lunches across the city as you explore.
Puerto Caldera, Costa RicaJan 23 | Depart - late evening
The Pacific port and tiny town of Puerto Caldera is well-situated for many of Costa Rica's top attractions and most popular cities, including San Jose, Jaco and Puntarenas. This tropical city is located off of the Gulf of Nicoya and its unspoilt, natural beauty is a true spectacle.
The vast rainforest around Puerto Caldera spreads from the coastline up into breath-taking mountain ranges where rivers, waterfalls, parks and wildlife preserves are all waiting to be discovered.
Manzanillo, Colima, MexicoJan 26 | Arrive - early afternoon | Depart - late afternoon
Along with Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlan, Manzanillo is one of the three most popular resorts on the Mexican Riviera, and for good reason too. Where land meets the azure waters of the Pacific Ocean, beautiful golden sand beaches await those who visit simply to make the most of the region’s gloriously warm sunshine, while the surrounding jungle-smothered, mountainous landscapes beg for exploration by the more adventurous.
There’s more to Manzanillo than its beaches and natural beauty though. Divert away from the picturesque coast and into the city and you’re in for a very different, but no less rewarding experience. The downtown area of the city, while retaining a tranquil, laidback feel, is a busy commercial and cultural hub, buzzing with the energy of local life. Amongst the typically Mexican scenes of plazas, little streets and colonial-style architecture, you’ll find there are plenty of family-run restaurants, bars and shops offering an authentic taste of the Manzanillo.
Cruising by San Benedicto & Sorocco Islands, MexicoJan 27 | Arrive - late morning | Depart - early afternoon
Part of Mexico’s Revillagigedo archipelago, San Benedicto and Sorocco Island are two imposing volcanic lands of ash smothered valleys, dramatic peaks and craggy cliff faces, providing incredible views to take in from the comfort of your smaller-sized ship.
But while the lava-formed landscapes of San Benedicto and Sorocco are truly impressive, the islands are actually better known for the waters that surround them, as they’re a haven for various species of marine life. Divers and snorkelers flock to explore the fauna-rich capes and guyots to go in search of manta rays, sharks, dolphins, tropical fish and much more; be sure to keep your eyes on the waters as you sail by, you never know what you might spot!
Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii, USAFeb 01 | Arrive - early morning | Depart - late night
For those whose thoughts of Hawaii invoke dreams of paradise beaches and laidback life, Honolulu – with it’s skyscrapers, office blocks and commercial districts – may come as a bit of a surprise. The state’s cosmopolitan capital, Honolulu is at the very heart of Hawaii’s industry and commerce, and in some ways is typical of many U.S cities.
That is not to say that visitors should be disappointed by Honolulu though, far from it. This is Hawaii after all, and so this bustling city is of course situated amongst some of the most spectacular scenery you could ever wish to discover. Where the Pacific Ocean laps the shore, mile-upon-mile of warm, inviting sands – encompassing the world-famous Waikiki Beach – provide an escape from the hustle and bustle, while views of surrounding volcanic peaks such as Diamond Head and lush forested landscapes entice you into exploring magical Oahu Island further.
Within the city itself, there are plenty of authentically Hawaiian experiences to be had; you can wander through the fascinating Chinatown, following in the footsteps of 19th century whalers and immigrant traders, take in landmarks such as Aloha Tower and impressive Victorian-era buildings, and meet the locals at the world’s largest open-air shopping centre. You’ll find museums and galleries aplenty too, while the iconic Pearl Harbour Memorial is also within reach.
Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii, USAFeb 02 | Arrive - early morning | Depart - early evening
Quintessentially Hawaiian, gorgeous Lahaina blends a mix of history, beauty and modern-day delights, creating a wonderfully charming, and rewarding, destination for any visitor to breathtaking Maui Island. Situated on Maui’s picturesque west coast, the town was once Hawaii’s capital and an important part of the whaling boom in the 1800s. Now, while the days of whale trading are long gone, Lahaina remains a symbol of the past and features on the U.S Register of Historic Places.
With every turn, especially within ‘Old Lahina’, you really get a feel for the history here, as around 55 acres of the town are designated historic districts. It’s all easily explored on foot, with highlights aplenty to discover; take a stroll along lively Front Streets, one of America’s ‘Top Ten Greatest Streets’, and see sights such as the U.S. Seamen’s Hospital, Hale Paahao (Lahaina Prison), the Pioneer Inn on the historic trail.
Aside from its attractions from centuries past, Lahaina also offers a taste of authentic island culture and beauty – as you might expect from somewhere found in one of the world’s most spectacular archipelagos. You can immerse yourself in Maui’s way of life, tasting locally grown and sourced produce at Lahaina’ fine restaurants; catch performance of traditional dance and music at a seaside luau; head out for a volcanic hiking adventure; or simply indulge in pure relaxation at the dream-like beaches.
Hilo, Hawaii, USAFeb 03 | Arrive - early morning | Depart - early afternoon
Situated on the island’s northeastern shore, Hilo is the gateway to some of the most spectacular, dramatic and untouched scenery found anywhere on Hawaii. Visiting this vibrant town puts you within easy reach of the volcanic wonders of the Kohala Coast, blessed with an array of astonishing natural landmarks that astound you at every turn, from cascading waterfalls and towering peaks, to fertile rainforests and blooming, fragrant gardens.
There’s rich history to this particular part of Hawaii too; Hilo itself was once a busy farming and fishing hub, and museums such as the Lyman Museum tell fascinating tales of the town’s past. Speaking of museums, a must-visit attraction is the Pacific Tsunami Museum, which offers an emotive insight into the the terrifying tsunamis that nearly swallowed Hilo many years ago. Meanwhile, you can enjoy an authentic taste of local culture at the East Hawaii Cultural Centre, and amongst the hustle and bustle of the Farmer’s Market. To sample local food and drink, be sure to stop by the many bars and restaurants.
Raiatea, French PolynesiaFeb 08 | Arrive - early morning | Depart - early evening
Raiatea, which translates to ‘faraway heaven’, certainly lives up to its name. The island boasts breathtaking scenes of lush jungle interiors, volcanic peaks – including 3337ft-high Mount Tafatua and Mount Olympus, where rare and scared Tiare Apetati flowers grow – and extensive coastal lagoons offering stunning seascapes of azure blue waters and coral reefs teeming with colourful flora and fauna.
Beyond the island’s abundant beauty, Raiatea is also rich with cultural and historical importance. It’s believed to be the original birthplace of Polynesia, and where the great Polynesian migration to Hawaii and New Zealand began many centuries ago. Today the island is a pilgrimage for those who wish to retrace the historic steps of their ancestors.
Amongst the awe-inspiring landscapes, many fascinating historical and archaeological treasures await discovery, including Marae Taputapuatea – the largest outdoor temple in French Polynesia – and Hauviri Marae, home of the famous Te-papa-tea-ia-ruea sacred stone.
Papeete, French PolynesiaFeb 09 | Arrive - early morning | Depart - early evening
Papeete, on Tahiti, is the capital of French Polynesia, a group of islands in the South Pacific. Its very name conjures up images of Gauguin paintings, palm trees, golden beaches and blue seas, and this near-perfect Polynesian island does not disappoint.
The bustling city of Papeete is home to the world’s only Pearl Museum, which traces the history and mythology of pearls, and has many examples of black, white and pink pearls on view. The town’s fine buildings include a number of interesting religious buildings: the red spire-topped, 19th century Notre Dame Cathedral plays an important part in Tahitian society.
Beside the port, the busy Place Vai’ete fills with food carts (roulottes) in the evenings, while the large Le Marché de Papeete is a favourite daily market. Le Marché, at the heart of the city, is packed with stalls selling fruit and vegetables, oils and scented soaps, jams and pickles, clothing, hats, bags and shell necklaces. Spread out over two floors, the sumptuous displays of flowers – Tahitian homes are considered incomplete without flowers everywhere – simply have to be seen to be believed.
French Polynesia is comprised of over 100 islands and atolls, with Tahiti possibly being the most famous thanks to its soaring peaks, lush valleys, cascading waterfalls and stunning vistas. The array of natural treasures includes the Faarumai Waterfalls and spring garden of Vaipahi.
Bora-Bora, French PolynesiaFeb 10 | Arrive - early morning | Depart - early evening
The small South Pacific island of Bora Bora to the northwest of Tahiti in French Polynesia, is a special kind of paradise. This popular resort destination is surrounded by sand-fringed motu (islets) and a warm lagoon protected by a coral reef. With incredible sandy beaches that stretch on forever, grand palm trees swaying gently in the breeze, and turquoise waters filled with turtles, sharks, rays and tropical fish, many visitors find it hard to describe the magic that emanates from this island.
A haven for scuba divers, one of Bora Bora’s more unusual sites are the ‘bungalows’ perched over the water on stilts. Since water is a way of life here, popular lagoon excursions include snorkelling, diving, cruising, fishing, paddle boarding, kitesurfing and jet skiing.
At the island's centre the extinct volcanoes of Mount Pahia and Mount Otemanu tower over the whole island, the latter rising to a height of 727m.
Crossing International Date Line, SamoaFeb 13 | Arrive - late night | Depart - late night
The International Date Line runs from the North Pole to the South Pole and distinguishes the change of one calendar day to the next, passing through the middle of the Pacific Ocean, roughly following the 180° line of longitude, and is exactly halfway round the planet from Greenwich, London.
So, for guests sailing West on their World Cruise, it will result in a 'Lost Day', due to location of this imaginary line, and so it follows that for guests sailing East, it results in a day gained.
Auckland, New ZealandFeb 16 | Arrive - early morning | Depart - early evening
Founded in 1840 by British settlers on a Maori site, Auckland is a cosmopolitan city with a large Polynesian population. Situated within two large harbours, the City of Sails is a major city on New Zealand’s North Island.
The iconic Sky Tower underlines the city’s prosperity and self-confidence, and offers fabulous views of Viaduct Harbour, which is full of millionaire yachts and lined with cafes and bars. Indeed, Auckland boasts more boats per head than any other city in the world.
The port is surrounded by stunning natural landscapes, which are perfect for wild adventures. Auckland Domain, the city’s oldest park, is based around an extinct volcano and home to the formal Winter gardens. Dense rainforests, beautiful black-sand beaches and pretty bays add to the natural beauty of the place, and Mission Bay Beach, near the downtown area, has a wonderful seaside promenade.
With its glittering high-rise developments and a delightful pier-side area brimming with tempting shops and restaurants, this modern metropolis is a joy to explore.
Picton, New ZealandFeb 18 | Arrive - early morning | Depart - late afternoon
Situated at the heart of New Zealand’s Marlborough region, Picton is an ideal gateway between the north and south islands. But this charming little coastal township is much more than a stop-off point for tourists and travellers, it’s a destination worth visiting, exploring and enjoying in its own right.
Nestled within Shakespeare Bay, peaceful Picton is surrounded by beautifully scenic landscapes of rolling forested hills and valleys, and turquoise waters that beg for exploration. There are spectacular walking trails, passing through coastal forests, sandy bays and peaks that present superb views of Picton and across glorious waterways nearby, while you could opt to take to the Marlborough Sounds by boat in search of native marine life. The sounds are alive with dolphins, orcas, humpback whales, penguins, various seabird species, and much more.
From Picton, the Marlborough wine region – famous for its delicious Sauvignon Blanc – is within reach too; on tour, you can visit one of the local vineyards to learn about the local tipples, how they’re produced, and of course sample some of the finest wines at source.
Cruising Dusky Sound, New ZealandFeb 20 | Arrive - early morning | Depart - early morning
Located deep within New Zealand’s Fiordland National Park, Dusky Sound was discovered by Captain Cook in 1773 and is one of the country’s longest, most picturesque and – with no direct road access – one of the most remote fjords. Surrounded by huge mountains, tall sea cliffs and lush flora, Dusky Sound doesn’t just look incredible, but it also serves as an important breeding ground for a diverse range of birds, especially Fiordland Penguins, which are often spotted on the shore.
Within the mesmeric still waters, varied species of seal are often spotted too - as well as dolphins and whales – so be sure to have your binoculars and camera at the ready as you glide through one of the world’s most incredible natural wonders.
Cruising Doubtful Sound, New ZealandFeb 20 | Arrive - late morning | Depart - early afternoon
Despite its name, Doubtful Sound isn’t actually a sound at all. It’s actually a very large, very beautiful fjord, one that offers incredible mountain scenery, glass-like crystal clear waters and several stunning waterfalls to gaze in awe at.
The most impressive of all the sights within the fjord are arguably Helena Falls – an incredible 600 metre waterfall that crashes down into the fjord below – and the imposing Secretary Island – the largest island of a beautiful archipelago at the ‘sea-end’ of the fjord.
Be sure to keep an eye out for native bottlenose dolphins as they swim and play in the glorious fjord waters surrounding the ship, as well as fur seals, penguins and if you’re lucky, several whale species.
Cruising Milford Sound, New ZealandFeb 20 | Arrive - late afternoon | Depart - early evening
This really is more than just a port of call, as the wonderful scenery has earned this region of New Zealand a reputation as a significant sightseeing destination for anyone travelling to this part of the world. James Hingston described it perfectly in 1883 - "For thousands of feet upwards the eye looks upon straight cut rocky frontages, not worn smooth by time, or by wind or water, but as sharply defined and as fresh looking in all respects as if riven asunder but yesterday by the stupendous wedges of Titanic Masons.“
Sydney, AustraliaFeb 23 - 25 | Arrive - early morning | Depart - early evening
Sydney, Australia is one of the world's most exciting, must-see modern cities. Home to the famous Harbour Bridge and Opera House – two of the most iconic cityscapes on Earth – the capital of New South Wales has a visual wow factor that most other cities can only dream of.
Defined by the rugged Pacific coastline that surrounds it, Sydney is a timeless, cosmopolitan metropolis that is easy to fall in love with. The imposing Darling Harbour, plus the smaller Circular Quay Port are the hubs of waterside life, with the revered Royal Botanic Garden nearby. For the more adventurous, Sydney Tower’s outdoor platform, the Skywalk, offers 360-degree views of the city and suburbs.
Compared with its Australian counterparts, Sydney is loud and brash. It has glamour and casualness in equal measure: there is a balance between the beach culture found on Bondi Beach and the fine dining and vibrant nightlife found in Kings Cross and Oxford Street.
Museums and memorials abound and include The Australian Museum, which opened in 1857 with the purpose of displaying the natural wealth of the colony, and the modern Museum of Sydney, which details the city's development. The Anzac War Memorial in Hyde Park is a public memorial dedicated to the achievement of Australia's armed forces in World War I.
The neoclassical Greek frontage of the NSW Art Gallery underlines the prominent and gregarious role art has in Sydney society. Major international exhibitions regularly arrive here and there's an outstanding permanent collection of indigenous art. And everything that’s best in contemporary Australian cuisine can be found at Circular Quay and The Rocks.
For those wanting to escape the city and go off the beaten path, the spectacular Blue Mountain or the Australian Bush offer spectacular sights and experiences. Sydney Harbour National Park protects large swathes of bushland, while Botany Bay’s history and connection to Britain is a big draw.
Newcastle, AustraliaFeb 26 | Arrive - early morning | Depart - early evening
Newcastle might not be as familiar as Sydney or Melbourne, but Australia’s second oldest city still has much to offer: interesting historical and architectural sites, artistic and cultural gems, plus beautiful beaches bathed in New South Wales’ glorious sun-soaked climate.
Discovered by Lieutenant John Shortland while chasing escaped convicts from Sydney, Newcastle quickly became one of Australia’s most important cities. A major exporter of coal, it was dubbed the ‘hellhole’ by the criminals who were sent there to mine as a punishment.
While still considered a ‘coal city’, the Newcastle of today is now a thriving, modern metropolis is a true delight. Architectural highlights include the 19th century Christ Church Cathedral, which was rebuilt after the 1997 earthquake. The iconic Fort Scratchley is famous for being the only place Australians opened fire on an enemy (the Japanese in World War II). Newcastle’s exciting cultural scene includes the Civic Theatre – one of Australia’s great grand theatres, the bustling Darby Street Precinct, the Foghorn Brewhouse – which crafts delicious local beers, the Art Gallery and the Maritime Centre.
Nature comes to life in the rainforest of Blackbutt Nature Reserve, Hunter Wetlands Centre and Glenrock State Reserve, which are in easy reach. For sun-worshippers Dixon Park is popular for surfing, while Horseshoe Beach, Merewether Beach and Newcastle Beach are some of Australia’s best beaches. Nobby’s Beach is a particular hot spot for swimming and sunbathing.
Cairns, AustraliaMar 01 | Arrive - early morning | Depart - early evening
Cairns is the gateway to Queensland’s tropical north, and renowned for its sultry climate and laid back ambience. The city used to be popular with visitors who came in search of gold, but now they visit to discover something even more precious: the Great Barrier Reef. The unmissable coral reef is easily accessible via boat trips from the city.
The focal point of Cairns itself is the 2km-long Esplanade, with its cafés, bars, piazzas, fine historic buildings and swimming lagoon. The Tanks Art Centre and nearby Flecker Botanical Gardens are worth uncovering, while the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park recounts stories of indigenous Aboriginal and Torres Strait people through music and dance.
Cairns is also home to the beautiful Wet Tropics Rainforest. The best way to see this natural wonder is to take the Kuranda Scenic Railway north from the city, passing over bridges and through tunnels carved from the cliff-face and to the village of Kuranda. From there, the 7.5km Skyrail Rainforest Cableway offers a ride above the rainforest canopy in glass-sided gondolas.
Alotau, Papua New GuineaMar 03 | Arrive - early morning | Depart - late afternoon
Spread out across the hillsides and beautiful northern shores of Papua New Guinea’s picturesque Milne Bay, Alotau assumes a rarely visited, undiscovered feel. Visitors to Alotau can connect with nature amongst the town’s scenic surroundings and fauna-rich waters; unwind at the untrodden volcanic black sand beaches; and immerse themselves in authentic local culture. Alotau natives are proud of Papua New Guinea’s age-old heritage and traditions, which are celebrated at the not-to-be-missed Alotau Cultural Festival – an extravaganza of tribal music, dance and chanting. Also worth visiting for a taste of traditional life is Alotau’s bustling town market.
Although Alotau is relaxed and laid back today, it was an entirely different place just a few decades ago. In World War II, Alotau was on many occasions at the centre of fierce and bloody battles between Australian Allied soldiers and Japanese troops. It was here where the Japanese suffered its first decisive defeat in the Pacific Theatre. The Australian War Memorial offers a detailed description of the Battle of Milne Bay, while the Turnbull Memorial – a short distance from Alotau – commemorates the death of Australian Squadron Leader Peter St George Turnbull, who was killed during the battle.
Komodo, IndonesiaMar 08 | Arrive - early morning | Depart - late afternoon
The Indonesian island of Komodo, is a combination of rusty-red volcanic hills, savannah and forests, and is the rugged habitat of the 3m-long Komodo dragon monitor lizard.
Komodo National Park covers this entire region and is home to more than 4,000 dragons. The surrounding seas have extensive coral reefs, mangrove swamps and sea-grass beds, and are occupied by a variety of sharks, dolphins, manta rays, sea turtles and whales. The park was established to protect the unique Komodo Dragon and the local ecosystem. Visits to the island are strictly controlled and only a limited number of organised tours can gain access.
Celukan Bawang, Bali, IndonesiaMar 09 | Arrive - late morning | Depart - late night
Part bustling shipping port, part gateway to paradise, Celukan Bawang blends the sights and highlights of ancient and modern Bali together to create an all-encompassing glimpse at life on this spectacular Indonesian island.
At the port, you’ll notice how centuries-old trading traditions – represented by high-prowed Bugis schooners and historic architecture – co-exist with the marvels of modern day commerce and engineering, from cruise ships to tower blocks, highlighting the importance of Celukan Bawang as an industrial centre.
Beyond the port however, it only takes a short journey to discover the dream-like scenes that are synonymous with Bali; head north for exotic black sand beaches, or south to indulge your wanderlust at postcard-perfect white sand stretches. For an authentic Balinese experience, head inland for explorations of lush, jungle-rich interiors alive with the sounds of native wildlife, and to discover traditional towns and settlements rich with local culture.
Singapore, SingaporeMar 12 - 13 | Arrive - early morning | Depart - early evening
Located at the tip of the Malay Peninsula, this dynamic city-state is the perfect cocktail of culture, cruising, arts and architecture. This global financial centre with a tropical climate and multicultural population is passionately working towards its dream of a ‘City in a Garden’.
Getting around Singapore is a fairly rapid affair, thanks to one of the world’s most efficient and widespread public transport systems. Its colonial core centres on the Padang, a cricket field since the 1830s and now flanked by grand buildings such as City Hall, and its multitude of Corinthian columns. The 19th century red-and-gold Buddha Tooth Relic Temple in Chinatown, allegedly houses one of Buddha's teeth.
The concrete that once dominated the city skyline is slowly being replaced by ‘green skyscrapers’, which look more like living ecosystems than office buildings. Visitors stepping out of the centre will find walking trails, treetop bridges, indigenous wildlife and the city's green jewel, the UNESCO-listed World Heritage Singapore Botanic Gardens.
A tantalizing selection of food sold from street markets is dotted around the city. Food is taken very seriously: from cheap street fare to Michelin-starred dining, Singaporean foodies will happily queue for it. Of course, for sheer elegance, nothing beats a Singapore Sling in the Raffles Hotel.
Singapore has always drawn visits from a variety of sea craft. Merchants of every race, colour and faith were quickly drawn to the island, and by 1911, Singapore’s population comprised of 48 races, speaking 54 languages. Malay is now the official language.
Phuket, ThailandMar 15 | Arrive - early morning | Depart - late night
The rain-forested, mountainous island of Phuket in the Andaman Sea, has some of Thailand’s most spectacular beaches situated along the clear blue waters of its western shore. This idyllic high-end island resort contrasts nicely with the culturally-rich capital, Phuket Town, which offers busy markets and fabulous food.
Thailand’s largest island, Phuket, is connected to the southern tip of the country by a couple of short road bridges. The island has wonderful soft white beaches, fringed by shady palm trees and grass huts. Just offshore, many uninhabited outcrops of tall limestone crags rise straight out of the sea and cry out to be explored. Phuket is the ideal spot to truly relax and unwind with incredible views of the surrounding bays.
In Phuket Town, the Thalang National Museum has fascinating displays about the island’s indigenous culture. There are a couple of Hindu Temples on the island, as well as a number of Buddhist shrines, including the Wat Chalong Temple, which is the centre for worship on Phuket. High in the Nakkerd Hills, northwest of Chalong Circle, the 45m-high Big Buddha sits in imposing fashion on the island's finest viewpoint.
Kochi, IndiaMar 19 | Arrive - early morning | Depart - late night
Known as the Queen of the Arabian Sea, serene Kochi on India’s south-western coast has been drawing traders, explorers and travellers to its shores for over 600 years.
Formerly the port of Cochin, Kochi grew to prominence as an outlet for the spice trade in the 14th century, and is most famous for the iconic-cantilevered Chinese fishing nets that billow out across its harbour. This ancient trading centre is a melting pot of cultures and religions, evident in the town’s buildings, which range from the oldest synagogue in the British Commonwealth to the austere Mattancherry Palace, built by the Dutch but influenced by the Portuguese.
Mormugão, Goa, IndiaMar 21 | Arrive - early morning | Depart - late afternoon
Mormugão is the main port of the tiny State of Goa, renowned for superb beaches and a colonial history that combines the best of Indian and Portuguese culture.
Known as the ‘Pearl of the Orient’, Goa showcases a mix of scenic beauty and architectural delights, from golden beaches and spice plantations to striking temples and bustling markets.
The Arch of the Viceroys was built in 1597 to commemorate Vasco da Gama’s arrival in India, while the nearby Church of St. Cajetan is modelled on St. Peter’s in Rome. Opposite the magnificent Se Cathedral at Old Goa – one of the largest churches in Asia, is the Basilica of Bom. Here the remains of Francis Xavier, a founder of the Jesuit order and patron saint of Goa, lie in a silver casket next to the altar.
Yoga is king in Goa, and the crop of spiritual activities available to visitors grows each year. T’ai chi sessions, Reiki healing courses, meditation, and most forms of spiritual exploration are all practised freely. The scents, spices and flavours of Goa’s cuisine is the area’s other main attraction, and the Indo-Portuguese influence will surprise and tantalise even seasoned travellers.
Mumbai, IndiaMar 22 | Arrive - early morning | Depart - early evening
Once a cluster of seven islands covered with coconut palms, Mumbai, formerly Bombay, is a sprawling, vibrant city on India’s west coast. It is a busy, densely-populated city, home to India’s most prolific film industry, Bollywood, and the largest tropical forest in an urban zone.
Mumbai can prove to be a surprising introduction to India. On its harbour waterfront stands the iconic Gateway of India stone arch; through it is India’s centre for finance and fashion, and a fervent religious crossroads. As such the city’s furious energy – and often heavy air pollution – can make it a totally different experience for visitors.
But once in Mumbai’s heart, some of the most imposing colonial-era architecture on earth is on view, as are its secret bazaars, hidden temples, and India’s top restaurants and intense nightlife.
The cultural mix is extraordinary: religious sites like the Jain Temple and the closely guarded Parsi Towers of Silence all exist happily next to the Victoria Railway Terminus, the Royal Bombay Yacht Club and the Ghandi Memorial Museum. The unique and popular bazaars offer souvenir trinkets, traditional shawls and shoes all ready to be bartered over.
Venturing beyond Mumbai, the elusive and lesser known Elephanta Caves are captivating. Set in attractive surroundings of lush green vegetation, vines and towering trees, Elephanta Island offers a stark contrast from the bustling inner city of Mumbai. The eerie Buddhist and Hindu caves, and their honeycomb of halls, shrines and pillars, are a must-see.
Dubai, United Arab EmiratesMar 25 | Arrive - early morning
To the south of the Arabian Peninsula, Dubai uniquely blends traditional Arabia with the lure of an ultramodern city. The emirate is a relatively new tourist destination that has gained popularity through its luxury shopping and stunning architecture. It is a world of sharp contrasts: from the contemporary malls, hotels and theme parks to the historic culture of Dubai’s Shindagha and Bastakiya districts.
Experience the soaring Burj Khalifa Tower, the world’s tallest building, visit the man-made Atlantis Palm Island or take a drive through the Arabian Desert, where the sand dunes display a spectacular sight at sunrise. The beaches stretch as far as the eye can see – the water sports on Kite Beach are a particular attraction – and limitless culinary delights await in award-winning Michelin star restaurants. The city is alive 24/7, and the nightlife is famously upbeat. Some tranquillity, however, can be found at the Al-Mamzar Park.
Dynamic Dubai is constantly developing and evolving, including what can be picked up in the traditional Souks. From the usual spices and delicious local treats to more extravagant items including gold, silver, precious stones and perfumes, the atmospheric lanes of old Dubai are piled high with aromatic and glittering surprises.